Transcripts

ABC South East Breakfast with Simon Lauder

Simon Lauder:

Now with just over three million Australians now vaccinated, the question of when international borders will reopen is generating debate again even within the Government. The Federal Budget assumes the border will reopen by the middle of next year, but there’s no set date and some backbenchers have been pushing for a faster vaccine rollout. And you’ve heard this morning a bit of debate within the business community over whether borders should reopen even if it costs some lives in Australia. Bit of a starting point for our interview with Liberal Senator for New South Wales this morning, Andrew Bragg, good morning.

Andrew Bragg:

Good morning Simon.

Simon Lauder:

Thank you so much for joining us. What’s your view on when our borders should reopen and whether we should be striving to reopen them sooner, even if it brings greater risk?

Andrew Bragg:

Well Simon, Australia has performed very strongly during the coronavirus pandemic and we have, I think, done better than almost any other jurisdiction from both a health and economic point of view. I mean, there is now more people in work than there were before the pandemic and so, we need to take a judicious approach to reopening the borders because we don’t want to import the virus, having now spent so many resources keeping the virus largely out.

Simon Lauder:

So, you’re happy with the current careful approach?

Andrew Bragg:

Well I think we have to be cautious because we don’t want to import all the various new strains which seem to be emerging by the week. And so, I think what you will see is you will see bubbles, there will be a bubble with New Zealand, there could be one with other similar countries, perhaps Singapore, where they have a high level of vaccination rates. And I think that will happen in a pretty orderly way. As you say the Budget expects by the middle of next year there will be borders opening. I hope it can happen as soon as possible.

Simon Lauder:

Now let’s turn to your book, Buraadja: The Liberal Case for National Reconciliation. A lot of really interesting ideas and discussions in there, and for you starting with some consultation with Indigenous people here in the south-east at Moruya.

Andrew Bragg:

That’s right Simon. So, I wanted to spend some of my time in Parliament working on reconciliation because I felt that throughout the course of my life we’ve spoken about reconciliation and recognition so much, but we haven’t delivered a whole lot. And so, I’ve written this book, effectively it sets out the liberal and conservative case for action on reconciliation and on Uluru, and we’ve used a language from the Yuin people, the Dhurga, which is a New South Wales language. And I think it shows that language is coming back, which is great.

Simon Lauder:

Yeah, particularly the Dhurga language with that dictionary being published recently. Now, in the book, you say it’s time for some truth telling in Australia to close the great Australian silence. What do you mean by that?

Andrew Bragg:

I think our education system has done a good job of presenting the full balance of our history; the Indigenous culture, the arrival of the Europeans and the British Institutions. But I still think that especially in Canberra, which is a purpose-built capital not far from the south-east where you’re broadcasting from, the capital itself doesn’t really reflect an Indigenous heritage very well. I mean there are no flags flying inside the Parliament building that are Indigenous flags, there are no statues in the Parliamentary Triangle that are of Indigenous people. There is no significant institution inside the Parliamentary triangle. So, I think we need to do a lot more work in presenting the full balance of our history in our national life in Canberra, and I’ve identified a few ways to do that in the book.

Simon Lauder:

Yes, and your book outlines your views on the Uluru Statement from the Heart from 2017 and seeing that as the centre-piece of reconciliation. What was the feeling you had when you first heard Malcolm Turnbull basically reject the Uluru Statement from the Heart, or at least large parts of what it suggested?

Andrew Bragg:

Well the Uluru Statement is really the third statement following the Barunga statement of 1988 and the Bark petitions of 1963 where Indigenous people have asked for more agency, more control, more of a say over their own lives. And I was disappointed historically with how the other two have been handled and I was disappointed with how the Uluru Statement was handled in 2017. But I would say that under the Morrison Government we have been progressing this concept of a Voice through Minister Ken Wyatt’s department. So, we are progressing parts of Uluru, which I think is a very good contribution to Australia. I see Uluru as really a serious attempt at nation-building because it’s effectively saying that Indigenous people want to be in our constitution. They want to be recognised in our constitution and we should do that. That’s an important part of our country’s history, and until we do that, I think our constitution is incomplete.

Simon Lauder:

And I know that there’s some consultation on that happening at a local level and there’s been some in the south-east recently. How long do you expect the process to take?

Andrew Bragg:

Well submissions have recently closed on the Voice co-design process and I think there will be some more opportunities for community input. And ultimately the Government will have to make a judgment about what it wants to do in terms of having a national voice, having a local and regional voice and then also determining what sort of legal arrangements there should be. I’ve suggested we should hold a referendum in the next term of Parliament to put an obligation on the Commonwealth to consult Indigenous people on laws and policies which affect them. I’m hopeful that our Government will consider making that commitment.

Simon Lauder:

Going beyond that, does there need to be a treaty in Australia?

Andrew Bragg:

The first priority of Uluru that we are progressing is the Voice. And that is, as I say, underway. The treaty is a more elusive concept in my mind, and of course I make all these comments as a non-Indigenous but I’m trying to engage in the material that’s been put forward by Indigenous people, as a legislator. A treaty is, I think, a more of an elusive concept. We already have land rights laws in most States and most jurisdictions. I’m not sure those are working as well as they could, and so I would like to see us ensure that the land rights systems are driving economic development and then really it’s incumbent upon the Indigenous groups seeking treaties or agreement-making to put forward exactly what they’re looking for. I mean the Uluru Statement doesn’t talk about treaties, it talks about agreement-making. Agreement-making is often to do with place-names and heritage of locations.

Simon Lauder:

On this program yesterday I had a really interesting chat with local Djiringanj elder Ellen Mundy, which kind of points to just how complex this question of identity is, and recognition. She supports a treaty, but she made the point that it should be negotiated with each tribal group not just Aboriginal Australia or First Nations people as a collective, and even rejecting the term “Yuin nation” as a bit of a catch-all. Here’s a bit of what she had to say:

Ellen Mundy:

A treaty can only be done by the original people. It can’t be done as First Nations people or a nation. A treaty has to recognise the original people of these tribal boundaries in order before we can even enter into a treaty.

Simon Lauder:

Senator Andrew Bragg, what does that say about the complexity of this and I guess the cultural sensitivities and how far we do have to go in terms of recognising all the different tribal groups? Is that an important part of process or can it be done in general terms?

Andrew Bragg:

Well Simon, I think for the national government to deal with all the different groups in an agreement, that would be quite a challenge. I guess the question is what are the states doing to progress these issues. The states are closer to the ground, closer to the groups, and they’re also the level of government that hold large parts of the Crown land. And so, generally in historical terms, treaties have been about land and money. There have been successful treaties undertaken in Western Australia. The Barnett Government did an agreement with the Noongar people, which I think has been well regarded by the Noongar. And so, the question really is, what is the appropriate level of government to be looking at these issues in detail and I would say it would be the states. It would be incredibly difficult for the national government to work with all the different groups-

Simon Lauder:

Would you support New South Wales following the Victorian example, where they’ve got a truth telling process and a First Peoples Assembly in Victoria?

Andrew Bragg:

Yeah, I think those are all good ideas and I think that all the states could have their own Voices to Parliament. This is something that Steven Marshall is doing in South Australia. So, I think governments could do worse things than engage more deeply with their citizens but from the national government’s point of view, the priority that we are progressing from Uluru is the Voice. That is something that is really in our domain, whereas the other element of agreement-making is less clear how the national government could play a useful role. And the other component there, of course, is truth telling which I think is something that we should be doing everyday.

Simon Lauder:

Yep, and still obviously quite a long way to go in Australia. Senator Andrew Bragg, great to talk to you on ABC South East this morning. Thanks a lot.

Andrew Bragg:

Thanks for having me Simon. All the best. Bye.

Simon Lauder:

Liberal Senator for New South Wales Andrew Bragg talking about reconciliation and his book Buraadja: The Liberal Case for National Reconciliation.

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